Are Names of God and Creatures Predicated Univocally?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are continuing our dive into the ocean of truth. We’ve been studying the doctrine of God and our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. If you do not have a copy, you can read it online at If you have an IPhone or kindle, you can also read it there and it could be free. We’re studying the names of God and tonight we’re going to answer the fifth question on the discussion. Is what is said of God and creatures predicated univocally of them?

God-talk. We’ve talked about it before. In the middle of the twentieth century, a movement came about called logical positivism that said unless statements were analytical, that is, the meaning of the statement was in the term, such as bachelors are unmarried males, or were empirically verifiable, then they were meaningless. The problem with this was that the test itself didn’t pass the test. The idea had been to reduce God-talk to meaninglessness.

There are three ways that we can use language. One is univocally. If you walk down the street and see someone and say “Good morning” to them and say to the next person you meet “Good morning”, they don’t have any reason to think you meant anything different to any of them. The term meant the same thing.

There is also equivocal. If I tell you “I am going to the bank”, it could mean I am going to a building that stores money for me, or it could mean that I am going to a river and I am going to sit on the edge. Without some sort of context, you will not know for sure what I mean as the term “bank” means two completely different things.

The final way we can speak of something is analogically. Consider this proposition. “2 + 2 = 4.” You can see that in two ways. In the first way, your eyes can see the proposition and you have visual input of it. In the second way, your mind can see the truth of the proposition. If I wrote “2 + 2 = 5”, you could see it the first way, but not the second. (At least I hope you don’t see it the second.) In this case, “see” is applied analogically.

This is the way statements are applied of God. I would hope I am wise, but I am not wise the way God is. Wisdom is something added to my nature. It is not distinct from God’s nature. It is his nature. My wisdom is kind of like God’s, but it is not exactly the same. On the other hand, it is not completely different either.

If we have a univocal concept, we have a God who is just like us, just different by degree rather than by kind. If we have an equivocal concept, we have a God who is entirely different from us and we cannot know him at all. If we have analogical concept, we have a God who we have some similarities to, but at the same time is different by kind rather than degree. This is the kind of God we do have.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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